OTTAWA — Canada needs to move faster on renewable energy as a new international energy outlook forecasts demand for all fossil fuels will peak in seven years, Energy Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said Wednesday.
An annual outlook the International Energy Agency published on Tuesday said that even if no new climate-related policies are implemented, the ones that already exist are still enough to bring demand for oil, gas and coal to a peak by 2030.
It said that renewables will account for nearly half the world's electricity supply by that year, and solar power alone will account for more energy than is currently produced by the entire U.S. electricity system.
Wilkinson said the agency had previously predicted that demand for oil and gas could peak by 2030.
But that forecast had depended on scenarios that saw most countries adopt stronger policies. He said this is the first time the agency is predicting a 2030 peak even if no country lifts another finger on climate action.
It means there should be no doubt that renewable energy and clean technology are the economic drivers of the future, he said.
"What Canada needs to do is to really get with the program," Wilkinson said in an interview.
"We actually have to double down on investing, in building that economy that will create jobs and economic opportunity for the future, and stop looking backwards at a scenario that is in the past. The world is moving. The report underlines that the world is moving."
Wilkinson said China has been strategically investing in renewable technologies for years and is now the world's largest supplier of clean technology, electric vehicles and critical minerals.
He said Canada's oil and gas industry needs to move as quickly as it can to decarbonize its operations, because that is the only way it will increase or even maintain its position as the market begins to shrink.
Canada's biggest oilsands producers are planning to invest in technology that traps some of their emissions and funnels them back underground, but they differ with the federal government on how quickly they can lower their emissions.
Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault is expected to soon publish details of his plan to cap emissions from oil and gas production, part of the strategy to meet Canada's next greenhouse-gas emissions target in 2030.
The oil and gas cap regulations are overdue, with Guilbeault initially promising a draft in the spring. He said recently that it's a very complex policy that no other major oil producer has attempted.
Oil and gas production accounts for more than one-quarter of Canada's total emissions.
Guilbeault said Wednesday that the international agency's forecast is in line with what the Canada Energy Regulator has suggested will happen.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2023.
Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press